When Salt is a Good Thing

If you are a runner or an athlete, maybe you can identify; There are times when salt is a good thing. I myself had not considered this point until two weeks ago. One of the great mysteries of life is that I excel in making baked goods, yet have not one iota of a sweet tooth. It’s unfair really. (Although, the fact that I don’t have a huge craving to eat everything I bake, it’s probably nature’s way of protecting me from myself… )

Salt on the other hand? Delicious.

If I’m gonna yield to a craving, it’s going to be to Ms. Vikki’s Jalapeno potato chips, (which incidentally while we’re on the topic, is my biggest vice) and not a piece of cheese cake. There’s something wrong with me maybe… A few weeks ago I ate so many that I gave myself the hiccups… (Self-restraint = area for improvement)

So I have a problem with salt. Established. This is an issue and I’m reminded of it almost daily. There are giant ads on the side of public transit warding the good citizens of Ottawa off of pickles because the sodium content in our diets is sky-high through the roof.

Given all of this, you can imagine how surprised I was when I figured out the cause of my mid 10 km /post-race crash after the Ottawa Race Weekend 10 km a few weekends ago:

Electrolyte depletion.

As it turns out, electrolytes (which include among other elements, sodium, potassium and calcium), are lost during physical exertion over long periods and in heat. This isn’t unusual and it makes sense. I get it, I’ve seen the sporty commercials.

"Then why doesn’t she just drink a Gatorade?” is what you are asking yourself.

So I have. During the first half-marathon I ran, it was at the water stations and I helped myself, after which point I promptly puked it up. Red dye and all. So I don’t do that any more.

But the problem is, I’m a minimalist runner. And when I say minimalist, I mean, I’ve been running my whole life in over-used beat out running shoes, which I change every few years, wearing t-shirts from grade 9 gym class (which omg was 13 years ago... k I have to get rid of those). I run because it’s enjoyable to me and it always seemed straight forward: Shoes, laces, water, go. For instance I didn’t until recently subscribe to exercise pod-casts, buy Lululemon running tops, follow the latest trends, and you wouldn’t catch me DEAD in Vibram 5 fingers… *shudder* (Famous last words?)

I’m not being self-righteous, I’m just admitting fault because as I've learned, it’s the crux of my having felt like crap during the race and for the 24-36 hours after I crossed the finish line. Putting some thought and time into approaching a race strategically will take you far, especially when you are upping your distances or running in crazy heat. The only reason I thought to investigate was because the race had been such a painful experience, I wanted to avoid it happening again. Knowing what I know now, it's easy to look back and see where some things went wrong.

All day before the race I was pumping water because I knew it was hot and dry and I didn’t want to be dehydrated. I think I flushed just about all the salt out of my body, considering I was literally running to the bathroom about every 15 minutes throughout the afternoon. I’m kicking myself for a few other things as well: During the race I proceeded to only drink water. After the race I sneered at the thought of the complimentary bits and bites passing by my cardboard-dry lips and I nearly gagged when someone offered me a milk based sports drink which was of course fortified with all the things my body probably needed.

It stands to reason that I’m missing a HUGE part of understanding how to “be a runner,” because I stubbornly maintain the notion that running is "just walking really fast." Lesson learned: sometimes salt is a good thing.  Also, sometimes it's a good idea to take hints from the experts.

Speaking of which here's some of the good ones:

1.  Pod casts:

- Marathon Training Academy

- Ben Greenfield Fitness

2. Blogs:

- The Sweet Life of Erika

- Live, Run, Love, Yoga

- Hot Bird Running

- Healthy Ashley

- Run Inspired

And that doesn't even scratch the surface!